I’ve been aware of the threat; little did I realise that it was just around the corner and has come to pass already. In Tasmania, the Catholic education system has adopted Common Core principles already and my students are already coming through the door of my office confused by the “new maths”. Some of the prominent private sector schools have also already adopted Common Core maths principles. The students tend to fall into 3 distinct groups.
1. Students already competent in maths: This group enjoys the challenge of finding and implementing new mathematical concepts and procedures – it is stimulating and productive for them – mind puzzles.
2. Average students who are just gaining competence but still require practice and consolidation to attain mastery of the main processes: Then along comes the sudden introduction of ‘new maths’ – a disruption they can’t afford – even though the ‘new maths’ in many ways assists in compensating for lack of automaticity in multiplication table facts. (This has not been taught due to the last assault on ‘rote learning’ – even when tables is one of the most appropriate uses of it). Now children learn the 2x table as a ‘doubling’ act – and the 4 x table as doubling the 2 x table – as a ‘crutch’. What about the 3 x table you ask? Shrug – easier to go on to 5 x, 10 x & 11 x first.
* It takes up a lot of class time when you have to look at & discuss up to 4 different methods to add up (plus).
* This leaves less practice and consolidation time – and group 2. needs that.
* The radical change at this critical stage of maths development is distracting & confusing.
* Group one have already worked it it out – that was the fun of it. So this slower teacher led concentration is a drag. It’s likely that they are the only ones answering the questions and they do so too quickly for group 2 to understand.
* The number of steps in solving a problem increases significantly. Each additional step is yet another opportunity to err – increasing the chances of getting it wrong.
* Parents are locked out. They can’t help their children unless they have the time to attend a ‘new maths’ session organised by the school. It might even be offered in a library near you – soon. Will the under-educated parents attend? Highly unlikely – so yet another marginalising effect will almost certainly occur.
* Consensus on how to teach students is under attack. Teachers will no doubt favour certain methods – changes in teachers means changes in emphasis. – students just have to wear it.
* Regarding teachers: It is just assumed a lot of the time that they will catch up with the new methods on the net. (Yet another expectation to add to the unrealistic burden society places on them).
From a private tutor’s perspective it is a nightmare. All of the above issues for group 2 compacted into 30 minutes a week.
3. For the students who struggle with mathematics – expect a widening gap in maths learning to occur. This is yet another burden for our over-worked, poorly-paid & under-appreciated teachers. It’s amazing that so many find a way to attend to the needs of the less academically able students in their care under such unrealistic expectations – but find a way they do. It is little wonder that so many have to seek stress leave.
The latest push for ever younger students to attend school is yet another experiment to be ‘explored’. Make no mistake that misplaced expectations will harm infants. if infants are forced to fail because incompetent bureaucrats (ignorant of developmental factors, or worse still, choosing to ignore them) deign to demand that teachers carry out their directives – we are in trouble.